Family dynamics encompass a range of relationships, emotions, living situations, and experiences. There is no one way to describe family bonds because they are unique to every family member.
Family ties are often the epitome of unconditional love, as experienced between a newborn and their parents. On the other hand, they can also be fraught with issues of abandonment, neglect, and abuse.
There’s no better way to express the barrage of emotions we feel for our family than in a song. Below, you’ll find a list of 21 of the best songs about family from some of the most famous music artists. Enjoy reading!
1. “Hey Jude” By The Beatles
Arguably the most famous British rock group of all time, The Beatles have a prolific repertoire of songs. “Hey Jude” is just one of their most popular and is about the riff between family members in the face of separation.
Paul McCartney wrote the song to comfort John Lennon’s son Julian. Lennon’s marriage dissolved, and he began seeing Yoko Ono. Simultaneously, Lennon and McCartney were in the midst of their own crisis as the band would soon split up.
Thus, this is a consolation song for the blood family and band family experiencing the devastation of irreconcilable differences.
2. “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes” By Taj Mahal
Despite “Lovin’ In My Baby’s Eyes” being the first dance song between husband and wife, Taj Mahal wrote this gorgeous song for his daughter. He drew inspiration for the lyrics after feeling his infant daughter’s intense gaze on him.
A gaze so intense and needy from an infant to her father created a lifelong bond that sealed Taj Mahal’s commitment and love for his daughter.
The song talks about doing anything for his baby and loving her more than any other man could. It reflects a true assessment of most fathers’ sentiments toward their daughters.
3. “Daughter In The Water” By Loudon Wainwright III
Whereas Taj Mahal’s song might be up for interpretation, “Daughter In the Water” leaves no doubt that this is one man’s expression of unconditional love for his daughter and pride in fatherhood. Loudon Wainwright III’s version is the most famous, thanks to its appearance in the 2007 movie Knocked Up.
The song begins every verse with “that’s my daughter in the water.” You can almost hear a fatherly pride as if he’s pointing his daughter out to a group of friends. Each verse also speaks about the things and experiences he has given her.
On the other hand, she can easily melt his heart. You can say she has him wrapped around her finger. But his pride and fascination in watching her grow permeate throughout the song.
4. “Teach Your Children” By Crosby, Stills, Nash, And Young
Our next song, “Teach Your Children,” offers words of advice for both the children and their parents. Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young wrote this song that shows the dynamics within a family.
The first part of the song addresses parents. It tells them to teach their children and share their life experiences. It’s important for parents to “feed them on your dreams” and let them decide for themselves.
The next verse switches the script, revealing that parents learn from their children as much as their children learn from them.
5. “We Are Family” By Sister Sledge
A song with “family” in the title is the most obvious when it comes to our topic. Sister Sledge released “We Are Family” at the peak of the disco era to celebrate family to a catchy ’80s beat.
The chorus of the song is the most familiar to most singers. It goes, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me.” Coincidently, Sister Sledge is a girl band with four women members. So they’re probably referring to each other when mentioning sisters in the lyrics.
“We Are Family” is about the importance of family, but it’s also about the definition of family. In this case, family isn’t about blood ties but a family of friends.
Related: Next, check out our list of songs about sisters here.
6. “Papa Don’t Preach” By Madonna
By the queen of pop herself, “Papa Don’t Preach” is a song with “family” in the lyrics. Madonna‘s song is about emotional independence but also about running to her Papa in times of trouble.
As much as possible, parents want to protect their children from all forms of harm. May that be friends who are a bad influence or, in the case of “Papa Don’t Preach,” a man that Daddy has warned her about.
Now she’s asking her father not to give her a sermon for her decision to be with the man. She’s convincing her Papa that the man will marry her and they “can raise a little family” of their own.
7. “Family Affair” By Sly And The Family Stone
This funky psychedelic song is Sly and the Family Stone’s biggest hit. “Family Affair” was released in 1971 and stayed on top of the charts for three weeks straight. The band itself is a family affair, consisting of Sly, Rosie, and Freddie Stone, along with bass player Larry Graham and drummer Gregg Errico.
However, “Family Affair” isn’t about the cohesiveness of a family. Instead, it talks about the complexity and differences experienced within a family unit.
The song narrates the tale of two brothers with opposing dispositions. It is an allegory for strife within the band as Sly Stone began to battle with drugs in real life. It caused fights and fractions, eventually leading to their breakup.
Related: Check out our list of songs about brothers here.
8. “My Father’s Eyes” By Eric Clapton
In our next song, the focus of family is the father and son. Eric Clapton‘s “My Father’s Eyes” talks about multigenerational ties and the relationship between fathers and sons.
It’s no wonder Clapton resonated deeply with this song. He himself grew up without a father. And when his son was born, he felt more connected to the father he never knew. It was only in his teens that he became aware that the couple who raised him was his grandparents.
In the song, we can feel how much the singer longs for his father’s presence in his life. He asks the question, “How will I know him?” but he already knows the answer to that.
9. “Family Business” By Kanye West
Up next is a song that mentions “family” in every sense of the word. “Family Business” is about friends, blood ties, and family members who’ve passed away. Kanye West wrote the lyrics from a first-person perspective. But he drew on family experiences as told by friends and band members.
The song masterfully invokes nostalgia for the good and bad times through very relatable descriptions of family scenes. Meals, conversations, petty fights, and visiting family members in jail, just to name a few.
The singer makes it clear that all the things in the world “don’t mean a thing” without family.
10. “My Little Love” By Adele
The painful and endearing song “My Little Love” by Adele, is about a mother answering her son’s questions about his parent’s separation. With divorce rates what they are today, this is a common theme that is as painful for the parents as it is for their children.
Adele’s humanity in this song is so transparent and vulnerable. She apologizes to her son for hurting him and explains that she isn’t perfect. The experience of a breakup with children involved shatters the child’s illusion of his parents as perfect beings in a perfect union.
At the same time, it helps listeners to understand their own parents’ flaws and helps them empathize in retrospect.
11. “Oh Mother” By Christina Aguilera
While breakups and divorces are painful, they are also a source of strength and pride. A case in point is this beautiful homage to brave mothers who leave an abusive relationship. “Oh Mother” is an autobiographical song about Christina Aguilera’s mother divorcing her abusive father when she was eight years old.
Aguilera used her experience as a way to speak out about the prevalence of domestic violence and the tendency to sweep it under the rug.
It may be difficult to put ourselves in the mother’s shoes. We may not fully understand her reasons for staying in the relationship in the first place. But we’re pretty sure that she has valid reasons for doing so. And she is a strong woman to be able to free herself and her children from the shackles of domestic violence.
12. “Father And Son” By Cat Stevens
A key part of growing up and becoming your own person is breaking away from your parents’ expectations. Cat Stevens knows this all too well, as expressed in “Father and Son” about a son and father’s mutual frustrations with life paths.
In the song, the father makes clear his expectations for his son. He wants him to stay in their hometown, get married, and settle down. We can understand that he only has his child’s best interests at heart.
However, the son doesn’t see it that way. He wants to do something else except settle down. The son is angry with his father for not trying to understand his point of view. Meanwhile, the father is frustrated with his son for not taking his advice.
13. “Daddy Sang Bass” By Johnny Cash
Despite the bad times, having a family makes things better. Such is the meaning behind Johnny Cash‘s “Daddy Sang Bass.”
If you ever saw the biopic of Johnny Cash, you’ll remember how he and his mother would sing Bible hymns as they worked in the cotton fields. You’ll also remember how fraught Cash’s relationship with his father was.
Still, this song alludes to a family united through song as they work tirelessly under the hot sun. At the end of the day, they sing together as it “seems to help a troubled soul.”
14. “Family Portrait” By Pink
It’s always the kids that are hurt the most when things go bad in the family. Pink‘s “Family Portrait” is a story of a dysfunctional family from the child’s perspective.
Pink’s parents divorced when she was nine years old. “Family Portrait” is an adapted version of a song she wrote in her childhood journal to cope.
She kept this song on the back burner for 11 years, releasing it when she was 21 to the heartbreak of her parents. They hadn’t known how she felt about the divorce until then, which was a catharsis for the entire family.
15. “Mockingbird” By Eminem
Another song about family dysfunction, “Mockingbird,” is Eminem’s ode to his daughter. Its chorus(“hush little baby…”) is an adaptation of the famous Southern children’s lullaby by the same name.
Eminem, always transparent and self-deprecating, writes about his failed relationship with his daughter Hailie Jade’s mother. It’s no secret that Hailie lived with a mother battling drug addiction and a father who was always on tour.
He praises her for her enduring a hard childhood and expresses his unconditional love for her. And he assures her that “everything’s gonna be alright.”
16. “Isn’t She Lovely” By Stevie Wonder
Up next on our list is Stevie Wonder‘s touching tribute to his daughter Aisha. He wrote “Isn’t She Lovely” from the perspective of a new father gazing adoringly at his newborn child.
Since Wonder is blind, his “gazing” was auditory. Consequently, he would record moments with Aisha so he could listen to her coos and giggles as a baby years later. He used on the song one such recording of Aisha taking a bath.
This upbeat song expresses a type of pure love that most fathers easily relate to. Wonder also expresses gratitude to his ex-wife for bringing their daughter into the world.
17. “Dear Mama” By 2Pac
American rapper 2Pac pioneered mother appreciation songs with this beautiful tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur. “Dear Mama” is 2Pac’s way of thanking her for raising him while she dealt with her own struggles to make ends meet.
In the lyrics, we find out how a single mother struggles to raise a young man. He experiences being spanked, being thrown in the street. The singer realizes it isn’t easy for his mother to raise him.
Despite all the stress he caused her, the singer wants her to know he appreciates her. He’s in awe of how a single mother does it all and resolves to never place anyone above her.
18. “Daughters” By John Mayer
This Grammy award-winning song by John Mayer traces deeply rooted emotional issues to family traumas. Mayer drew inspiration for “Daughters” from the problems he was having in his romantic relationship with women. He took a Freudian approach, analyzing their mistrust of him as the result of a lack of fatherly love.
This song resonates with fathers and daughters as much as it resonates with lovers. The singer advises fathers to “be good to your daughters” because they will learn from him how to love.
To some extent, the song also addresses mothers to do the same as daughters will one day become mothers as well.
19. “Be Alive” By Beyonce
Having a family who has your back makes you feel “good to be alive.” Written for the biopic King Richard, Beyonce performed “Be Alive” and released in 2021 for the movie’s soundtrack.
We can all learn a lot from what the song is about. It tackles the strength of family and how far one can go with her family by her side. Some people may doubt what she can achieve. But even if “the path was never paved with gold,” she, with her family behind her, worked hard to get to where she is.
That’s why the singer is not ashamed to lift her head with pride. She knows she fought hard enough and hustled to achieve the success she has today.
20. “Keep The Family Close” By Drake
Friends will come and go, but family is forever. “Keep the Family Close” expresses Drake’s realization of the unconditional love of family in the face of losing friendships. His issues with backstabbing or fake friends heighten his awareness of the importance of family love and support.
The sad part about this song is that Drake seems to have come to this realization too late. He prioritizes his friends and social standing while neglecting his family. He laments, “Guess it’s what they say you need family for.”
By the time he loses his friends, he’s also lost his family. It disappoints him that he can’t rely on his friends anymore.
21. “The Best Day” By Taylor Swift
Ending this list is Taylor Swift‘s 2008 single “The Best Day” from her Fearless album. Though the song is a dedication to her mother, we can tell that she sings about her entire family.
In the song, Swift recalls some of her most vivid and poignant childhood memories with her mother. She recounts a time when she was 13 when she came home crying. Her mother drove her far away just to talk and bond by window shopping.
Though there are still issues she has to face, Swift feels better knowing she’s got her mom. Their relationship is important to her, and it’s strengthened when she spent the best day with her mother.
Summing Up Our List Of Family Songs
Family is one of the things that make our lives meaningful. It’s the first place we experience love, freedom, and forgiveness. Our parents, sisters, and brothers are the ones who we can always depend on.
Whether you still live with your family, live on your own, or have your own family, we hope that these songs make you appreciate family more.
After all, no one is an island. We need our moms and dads even if we’re adults already. And our experiences with them will forever be a part of who we are.